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Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Awards: The Hotlist is Announced

By Periscope @periscopepost

Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Awards: The hotlist is announced

Rachel Johnson: Past winner of the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award, with the coveted plaster foot. Photocredit: Literary Review Archive

It’s time for Literary Review’s annual condemnation of overly purple sex-writing – the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award, now in its 19th year. The magazine has just released the longlist, which includes writers from across the globe: Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, David Guterson, James Frey, and Christos Tsiolkas, amongst others. There are only two women on the list: Jean Auel and Dori Ostermiller. The full list is below, with some quotes tweeted by Lit_Review.

Last year the prize was won by Rowan Somerville for his second novel, The Shape of Her, which contained the phrase: “Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her.” Somerville narrowly beat former Labour politician Alastair Campbell (whose enthusiasm for gaining the gong, reported The Daily Telegraph, was disapproved of by the judges.) Past winners of the prize have included Rachel Johnson (pictured, with Dominic West and the coveted plaster foot); Sebastian Faulks (who wasn’t happy); A A Gill, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Giles Coren (who, though initially happy, later rounded on the prize.) The award is given at the Naval and Military Club (also known as the “In and Out” Club, but alas not for innuendo purposes). Past prize-givers have included Sting, Mick Jagger, a rather sweet Courtney Love, and Grayson Perry, who wore a fake penis around his neck.

Bad puns abound as commentators swoon over the passages, with The Huffington Post leading the way, saying that the prize was “Thrusting its way deep into the public consciousness”; and  The Washington Post not far behind with “the competition is – um – stiff.”

“In a year in which literary awards have come under fire for parochialism and dumbing down [we are] proud to uphold and recognize literary excellence from around the world … The purpose of the prize is to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel and to discourage it,” said Literary Review, quoted on The Guardian.

Fevered imaginings. The first thing you notice, said Stephen Bates on The Guardian, is how “fecund” the imaginations of the writers are. The nominations include “agile tongues … warm wet caves, volcanic releases, most meat,” and much more, even before you reach “massaging, kneading, stretching, rubbing, pinching…” The list is exhausting. The most off-putting award goes to Christos Tsiolkas (for, said First Post, “paedophilia, coprophilia, and drinking of menstrual blood”); whilst “most succint” – well, that’s Chris Adrian, for The Great Night: “Now they fucked in earnest, which seemed like the right thing to do.”

Complex mathematics. It’s a “lovely time of the year”, said Lakshmi Chaudhry on First Post. What’s good (or bad) is that Murakami “is the only literary giant on the list,” nominated for “banal nuggets” like this: “ ‘[Her breasts] seemed to be virtually uninfluenced by the force of gravity, the nipples turned beautifully upward, like a vine’s new tendrils seeking sunlight,” which, claimed Chaudhry, was “hardly crude or tasteless.” More promising was a line in which the narrator says that even thinking about “complex mathematics” can’t bring his erection down. Chaudhry commended the Indian authors nominated for the award, and concluded that the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Awards were “the little blue pill for literature.”

Call the National Guard! The awards are meant to be “in good fun”, said Maura Judkis on The Washington Post, though some disagree, with author Rick Gekoski arguing for a prize for “good sex in literature instead.” She noted wryly that Lee Child’s passage (see, you can’t avoid it) in The Affair made “an earth-moving sexual encounter seem like a terrifying geological event that might require a mandatory evacuation, and the services of the National Guard.”

“Faster, harder, faster, harder. The room began to shake. Just faintly at first, like a mild constant tremor, like the edge of a far distant earthquake. The French door trembled in its frame. A glass rattled on the bathroom shelf. The floor quivered. The hall door creaked and shuttered. My shoes hopped and moved. The bed head hammered against the wall. The floor shook hard. The walls boomed. Coins in my abandoned pocket tinkled,” Lee Child, from The Affair, quoted on The Washington Post.

The Longlist, with some choice quotes from the texts.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (“A freshly made ear and a freshly made vagina look very much alike.”)

On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry (“We got rid of our damned clothes, and clung, and he was in me then.”)

The Final Testament of the Holy Bible by James Frey (“Every part of my body sang some song I had never heard.”)

Parallel Stories  by Péter Nádas (“They hit gracefully on this exceedingly advantageous position.”)

11.22.63 by Stephen King (“Her head bonked on the door. ‘Ouch,’I said. ‘Are you all right?’”)

Ed King by David Guterson (“At the moment of their mutual climax, Ed made sure Diane was on top.”)

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M Auel (“It surged up, unti, with volcanic release, it engulfed them.”)

The Affair by Lee Child (“Then faster and harder. Then we were panting. faster, harder, faster, harder.”)

Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas (“My tongue furiously worked the craters.”)

Outside the Ordinary World by Dori Ostermiller (“We’re part of the same organism: some outrageous sea creature.”)

Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy (“Henry reached up her thighs … as though quietly imploring.)

The Great Night by Chris Adrian. (“His lady lifted to the stars on his impossibly stiff, impossibly elegant cock.”)

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